Before becoming mothers, we usually only hear about all of the wondrous things that come with parenthood. How being a mother is the most amazing experience in the entire world. How there is nothing more rewarding. Having a baby is the biggest blessing you will ever have in your life. And, how those sweet little angels are pure perfection…blah, blah, blah. Well, those things may be true, but that’s not the whole picture of motherhood–at all!

I’ve been a mom for 17 ½ years. Now, that doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but it does mean that I have learned quite a lot over these years– some of which I wish someone would have had the decency to warn me about before I had my first. So, since I was never told the complete truth about everything that comes with this life-changing event, I decided to do all of you new moms a huge favor by telling you exactly what to prepare for—the good, the bad and the ugly.

Prepare to feel a kind of love that you have never felt before.

You might think that you love your partner more than you have ever loved anyone before, but you will soon find out that the love you feel for your child is on a whole new level. It’s a love that is so powerful and so vast that it physically hurts. I know that may sound strange, but it’s true and nothing can prepare you for what that will feel like. If you go on to have more kids, it does feel like this for each one, trust me, I have 4. It doesn’t matter how you become a mother, the bond that a mother has with her child is the most unique and extraordinary thing you will ever experience.

Prepare to feel a kind of tired that you have never felt before.

If you ever ask a mom how she is doing or how she is feeling, I guarantee her answer will always be, “I’m so tired.” Whether it’s from sleep deprivation caused from having a newborn who wakes up every hour or from waiting up for your teenager to get home safely at curfew, moms rarely get a good night’s sleep. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything that we have to do, or think that we have to do. The reasons we are endless! From a colicky baby to a kid who has a nightmare. From cleaning up after little people 24/7 to laundry that is NEVER ending. The list goes on and on. There is no sugar coating this one ladies, being a mom is absolutely exhausting!

Prepare to feel a kind of judgment that you have never felt before.

From the minute your child comes into this world, the judging begins. Or at least that’s how it feels. C-section or vaginal birth? Epidural or natural? Breastfeeding or formula? Disposable diapers or cloth? Full time working mom or stay at home mom? Everyone has an opinion on what your decisions are and they are not afraid to let you know if they disagree with you. Your friends, your family and even random strangers at Target, will feel completely comfortable expressing their opinions about your parenting choices. Why women continue to judge each other instead of being supportive and encouraging is beyond me. My advice is, do your best to ignore the haters and continue to make the best decisions for your kids and your family. At the end of the day, it’s absolutely NONE of their business.

Prepare to feel a kind of worry that you have never felt before.

Moms worry — it’s what we do. I’m not sure what we’d do with all of our time if we didn’t spend so much of it worrying. We worry about making the “right” decisions and when our kids are sick or about the possibility of something horribly tragic happening to them. We worry about their emotional well-being. And, we worry if we handled a certain situation correctly or if we screwed them up for life. You name it, we worry about it. Unfortunately, we will never stop because it’s part of our DNA. None of us know what in the hell we are doing. We are trying our best to survive this insane responsibility. Most of us are just trying to make it through another day. Hopefully, our kids end up ok, but if we do screw things up, therapy is usually covered by most insurance companies.

Prepare to feel a kind of guilt that you have never felt before.

This one completely overwhelmed and shocked me the most. “Mom Guilt” is real and consumes our brain the minute we are a mom. We feel guilty for yelling or being impatient with our kids, for working, if we miss anything, if we want to have a break (whether it’s a girls night out, or going to Target alone), if we say “NO, not right now” when our kids ask us to play, for breaking a promise, for checking Face Crack on your phone too often, and especially if we can’t do something that we feel as moms we should be able to do. We constantly put our own needs and desires on the back burner to be perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect mother. Take time for yourself- you deserve it. Quit comparing yourself to the moms of Pinterest- they are probably more exhausted then you. Saying “no” to your kids is ok. They don’t need to be entertained by you 24/7. If you can learn to accept these things, the guilt definitely gets easier to fight off.

Motherhood is amazing and wonderful. And, it’s exhausting and hard as hell. There will be days that you can’t imagine anything greater than spending time with your precious kids and days where you want to run as far away as possible from them and never come back. You will worry, feel judged, feel guilt and be so exhausted you feel like a zombie. But you will also love and be loved in a way that is so special that it’s impossible to describe the magnitude of it.

And that makes it all worth it.